Capital of the Philippines

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This is a list of current and former national capital cities in the Philippines, which includes during the time of the Spanish colonization, the First Philippine Republic, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, the Second Republic of the Philippines (Japanese-Sponsored Republic), the Third Republic of the Philippines, the Fourth Republic of the Philippines and the current Fifth Republic of the Philippines.[1]

The current capital city, Manila, was established by presidential order on June 24, 1976.


On April 23, 1521 Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu. He was welcomed by Rajah Humabon, who, together with his wife and about 800 natives, were baptized by the Spaniards on April 14, 1521[contradictory] and are considered to be the first Filipino Catholics. Magellan, however, failed to successfully claim the Philippines for the crown of Spain, having been slain in neighboring Mactan Island .

In 1570 a Spanish expedition ordered by the conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi demanded the conquest of Manila. His second on command, Martín de Goiti departed from Cebu and arrived in Manila. The Muslim Tagalogs welcomed the foreigners, but Goiti had other plans. The Spanish force of 300 soldiers marched through Manila and a battle was fought with the heavily armed Spaniards quickly defeating and crushing the native settlements to the ground. Legazpi and his men followed the next year and made a peace pact with the three rajahs and organized a city council consisting of two mayors, 12 councilors, and a secretary.

A walled city known as Intramuros, at the southern banks of Pasig River was built to protect the Spanish colonizers. On June 10, 1574, King Philip II of Spain gave Manila the title of Insigne y Siempre Leal Ciudad ("Distinguished and Ever Loyal City"). In 1595, Manila was proclaimed as the capital of the Philippine Islands and became a center of the trans-Pacific silver trade for more than three centuries.

When Philippine Revolution exploited in 1896, The town of Malolos in the northern province of Bulacan became the headquarters of the revolutionary movement yet several other towns became capitals, at a succeeding rate to avoid capture from the Americans during the Philippine–American War. The status of the national capital moved back to Manila after capture of President Emilio Aguinaldo on 1901.

Burnham Plan of Manila

In 1905, Famous architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham laid out a grand civic district in Manila, like Washington D.C and Chicago. Burnham's grand plan was never fully implemented. Only a few of the planned civic structures were built

During the time of the Commonwealth, Manila still served as the nation's capital. During these times too that Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon dreamed of a city that could become the future capital of the country, replacing Manila. The 1941 Harry Frost-Juan Arellano master plan for the new capital Quezon City provided a new site. Quezon also considered establishing a summer capital at Tagaytay, However the two cities’ plans were put on hold because of the advent of World War II.

During the Japanese-sponsored Second Republic of the Philippines and throughout World War II Manila still served as the nation's capital, However Baguio serve as the temporary capital of government in exile and the site where General Tomoyuki Yamashita and Vice Admiral Okochi surrendered

After the war, The Quezon City plan was revived, but the site of the three branches were moved to Novaliches. These plans were revised twice more in 1949 and 1956. In the preparations for the 1949 plan for the Capital at Quezon City, the government actually looked at locating the capital elsewhere. A committee was formed to look at 16 other options to Novaliches. These included, among others: Tagaytay, Cebu, Davao, San Pablo, Baguio, Los Baños, Montalban, Antipolo, and Fort Mckinley. The committee even considered moving the capital to Boracay Island

During President Ferdinand Marcos' period of Bagong Lipunan (New Society), Quezon City's stature of being the nation's capital was transferred to Manila and the area now known as Metro Manila on June 24, 1976 by Presidential Decree No. 940.

President Marcos also considered an alternative site for the national capital. A joint study was conducted by the architecture and planning offices of Cesar Concio and Felipe Mendoza, comparing the original Novaliches site and a newly reclaimed stretch of land south of the new Cultural Center of the Philippines.

During the administration of Fidel V. Ramos there were suggestions during his term to move the nation's capital to Fort Bonifacio as part of the conversion plans then. While Gloria Macapagal Arroyo proposed that the nation's capital to move to Cebu City.

Other capitals[edit]

Baguio was formerly designated as the "summer capital" of the country from 1903 to 1976. A presidential mansion is within the city limits, and the Supreme Court still holds their April–May summer sessions at Baguio. Presidential Decree No. 940 of 1976 made no mention of Baguio continuing to serve as the "summer capital", but the city still holds the distinction in an unofficial capacity.


LocationIsland GroupSinceUntilDescription
CebuVisayas15651569Miguel Lopez de Legaspi established its first Spanish settlement in the archipelago.
PanayVisayas15691571Second settlement of Spaniard. Establish as capital before conquest of Manila.
ManilaLuzon15711898Served as the seat of government of the Spanish colonial government in the Philippine islands.
Bacolor, PampangaLuzon17621764Temporary headquarters of the Spanish colonial government during the British occupation of Manila.
San Miguel, BulacanLuzon18971897Served as the capital of short lived Republic of Biak-na-Bato
Cavite El ViejoLuzon18961898Hometown of General Emilio Aguinaldo where independence was proclaimed during the Philippine Revolution.
ManilaLuzon18981941Served as the seat of government during the American military occupation, civilian insular government, and the Commonwealth until World War II. in 1901, the capital engulfed nearby municipalities like Ermita, Tondo, Santa Cruz, Santa Ana de Sapa, San Nicolas, San Miguel, San Fernando de Dilao, Port Area, Pandacan, Sampaloc, Quiapo, Binondo, Malate, San Andres, and Santa Mesa to form one city. The area in which Manila was used to be called before, was named Intramuros, also known as the "walled city".
Iloilo, Panay IslandVisayas18981898After the Fall of Manila, the Spanish Governor-General Diego de los Ríos tries to revive the colonial government in Iloilo until the Spanish forces surrendered to the Americans.
Malolos, BulacanLuzon18991899Served as the headquarters of Aguinaldo's revolutionary government during the Philippine-American War.
San Isidro, Nueva EcijaLuzon18991899After the Americans besieged Malolos on March 31, 1899, Aguinaldo transferred his headquarters in several towns in attempt to escape from American forces and continue his revolution.
Angeles, Pampanga
Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija
Bamban, Tarlac,
Tarlac City, Tarlac,
Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya
Bayambang, Pangasinan
Palanan, IsabelaLuzon19001901Aguinaldo's last hideout until he was captured by the forces of Frederick Funston and surrendered to the Americans.
ManilaLuzon19411945Served as the seat of government of during the Japanese occupation and the Japanese-sponsored Second Republic of José P. Laurel.
Corregidor IslandLuzon19411942Temporary headquarters of the Commonwealth government-in-exile led by President Manuel L. Quezon when Japanese forces invade Manila.
Washington D.CUnited States19421944
Tacloban CityEastern Visayas19441945Landing site of General Douglas MacArthur and the American forces during the end stages of World War II. Served as the temporary headquarters of the Commonwealth led by President Sergio Osmeña until liberation.
BaguioLuzon19441945After the Battle of Manila, the headquarters of the Second Republic was moved to Baguio until Laurel announced its dissolution in Tokyo.
ManilaLuzon19451948Became the capital of the Third Republic after the Second World War.
Quezon CityLuzon19481976By virtue of Republic Act No. 333 by Elpidio Quirino.
ManilaLuzon1976PresentIssued by Ferdinand Marcos on June 24, 1976 via Presidential Decree No. 940. Reorganized the capital and seat of government by incorporating the City of Manila, Quezon City, Pasay, Caloocan, several municipalities from Rizal, and one from Bulacan to form a metropolis.

Today, different areas in Metro Manila contains various agencies of the national government, headquarters of military and police, international airport, and embassies and consulates from foreign governments.